Joel Ashcroft is happy in his home town of Wellington, and loves teaching music. After his father kicked him out for being gay, he only has minimal contact with his mother and sister. But his best friend’s family has welcomed him in, and so he’s happy and content with his life. Even if he hasn’t had a boyfriend in five years.
Marcus Verden sees his ex-boyfriend everywhere in his small town, so he decides to make a fresh start and move up to Wellington, live with his sister and her family for a while, and decide if that’s where he wants to make his home. And then he sees Joel, whom he’s only met on occasion throughout the years since his sister’s wedding, when his sister Ella married Joel’s best friend Darin. And Joel is just as cute as he remembered.
Neither man thinks they are looking for a relationship, but matchmaking family members not so subtly push them together. Once they start dating, Marcus and Joel fall quickly. They fit together easily, though they aren’t without baggage and have a few bumps in the road. Secrets threaten to come between them, but in the end, they both realize that what they have is worth everything.
I couldn’t resist this story when I read the blurb. I love the combination of found family and blood family, and I thought it was a great set up to get these two guys together. This book is sweet, and I liked both the MCs and the secondary characters. There was a realness to all the characters that I really enjoyed.
One of the lovely things about this book is that it’s set in New Zealand, and that gives the whole story a flavor that was really intriguing. I thought the author did a good job of explaining some of the idiosyncrasies without seeming like they were being explained, and let other things alone, as it was just how things were. I felt a little bit like I was getting an armchair vacation, and that gave the book a little something extra.
Both the MCs are nicely drawn, and we get to see exactly where each man’s head is at. Joel worked for a me a little bit better. He rambles when he’s nervous, and works too hard, and acknowledges his hang ups, even if he’s not sure how to fix them. He was totally endearing. Marcus was great as well, but I felt a bit removed from him at times. Some of his actions/thought processes were more telling than showing, and it was harder for me to fully engage with him. But I loved the easy way they fell together, and how they moved forward together. It wasn’t perfect, of course, and each man had issues they needed to overcome. But on the whole, these guys worked right from the start, and I enjoyed their romance.
One aspect that didn’t work quite as well for me was the secrets. Marcus refrained from telling Joel two rather large things in the story and it was clear they were going to cause issues between them. The first thing seemed ridiculous that Marcus wouldn’t talk to Joel about it, and then it was resolved too easily for me. The second thing made more sense, but then I thought Joel’s reaction was too over the top, especially considering how far they’d come in their relationship. So I had some issues with this part of the story, and didn’t think it fit quite as well as it should have.
But this is another great addition to the Dreamspun Desires line. Not too heavy on the angst, with just enough to give the story some weight, and two lovely guys finding each other when it was the right time…whether they knew it or not. If you’re looking for a nice romance, with a great glimpse of New Zealand to add to the story, then this is the one for you.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.